Omnibus is a game that features a level where you harvest corn on the moon while avoiding oversized bumpers. Omnibus is a game where you fight a giant totem pole that shoots water. Omnibus is a game that lets you control a bus made out of lava that can explode with the press of a button. As far as physics games go, Omnibus is as weird as they come. But underneath the intriguing concept and bizarre levels, Omnibus is a game with some real issues.
The first thing you’ll likely notice about Omnibus is its low-poly style. Everything is rendered in simple geometric shapes, and it all comes together to form a charmingly retro aesthetic, reminiscent of some of the earlier games of the fifth generation. The buildings benefit from the chunky style, and it’s very satisfying to ram through an object and leave a nice hole in it. The only thing that betrays the polygons are character portraits — bizarre photographs with animated jaws. While it’s a bit jarring at first, everything does end up coming together in a strange way to make Omnibus one of the more memorable-looking games I’ve played all year.
Sadly, you probably won’t be paying too much attention to the setting, because once your bus starts moving, nothing short of a mission failure will stop it. No acceleration, no breaks, all you need to get through most levels is the stick, helping the out of control bus swerve around obstacles or hit boost pads. Later on, you do unlock a multitude of buses, but none of them change up the gameplay too drastically. The biggest departure you’ll get is the Gravity Bus, which allows you to send your bus hurtling downwards — or whatever direction the lower side of your bus happens to be facing. It’s a unique mechanic that gets quite a bit of use in the game, although a lot of it boils down to ‘flip the bus over so you can propel yourself into the air’.
While the mechanics of each level may be similar, the actual objectives are anything but. I was surprised to see that with one or two exceptions, literally every mission in Omnibus has you doing something different. One late game level has our intrepid bus performing a train robbery, then right after that, you’ll be equipped with bumpers to try and flip over invading bandits. These are all very much ‘one-and-done’ sort of levels, so there’s a new challenge to confront on practically every mission.
Sadly, the variety only takes you so far. I was genuinely shocked when I reached the end of Omnibus, and according to Steam, I had done it all in only a little over three hours. Thankfully, Omnibus has great replay value, and every level has a secret hat hidden somewhere in it, and you can also race the clock to get a gold medal on each little mission. If that’s not enough Omnibus for you, there’s also a free roam mode where you can bash through the environment and get points for pulling off Tony Hawk-style stunts, such as spinning your bus through the air or rolling across the ground on impact.
Sadly, the free play mode shows off the worst part of Omnibus, and that is that the physics just aren’t all that good. Not only is it all too easy to get your bus stuck on a landing, but the destructible environment can also really be detrimental to the overall experience. Not only can you destroy buildings, but the bus barrels right through things like ramps, destroying them unless you hit it at just the right angle. The train robbery mission was perhaps the worst offender in this regard, and getting on the train safely needed surgical precision — one wrong landing, and the car will fly right off the rails. This sort of slapstick mayhem works fine for a pure sandbox like Goat Simulator, but when actual missions are on the line, it becomes a lot less funny and a lot more frustrating.
Still, when I wasn’t swearing at the game, I always had a bright smile plastered across my face. Omnibus might not be the most polished or lengthy game out there, but it is certainly one of the most charming.
Omnibus was reviewed on Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
Omnibus is an enjoyable game with a fun premise, but the novel concept is brought down by wonky physics.